Troops yesterday locked down Bama, the Borno State town, where Boko Haram men engaged security men in a battle in which 55 people died.
Residents stayed indoors after coordinated assaults by heavily armed Islamist insurgents.
The military said the brazen raid was carried out by some 200 Boko Haram gunmen, who stormed the town in a convoy of buses and 4×4 trucks, armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
Disguised in army uniforms, the insurgents broke into a prison, killed 14 guards and set free 105 inmates.
They attacked a police station, killing 22 officers. Also dead were 13 Islamists, four civilians and two soldiers.
“Only a few people have ventured beyond their front doors,” said Bama resident Musa Bra. “Troops are all over the town patrolling the streets.”
He explained that many people fled to the bush after the pre-dawn attack Tuesday.
While some have tried to return, the military is screening everyone entering the town and asking for proof that they are civilians and not members of the insurgent group which has become notorious for blending in with the local population, Bra added.
“Everybody is indoors,” said another resident who asked that his name be withheld. “It is just military all over the town.”
An AFP journalist who visited Bama on Tuesday said shops, petrol stations and markets had shuttered, and there were burnt vehicles by the roadside.
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday deplored the Bama killings.
In a statement, presidential spokesman Reuben Abati said: “President Goodluck Jonathan deplores yesterday’s attack by armed terrorists on Bama, Borno State which claimed scores of lives.
“President Jonathan believes that the continuation of such callous and wanton attacks of innocent Nigerians, government facilities and security formations flies in the face of ongoing efforts to establish a workable framework for dialogue and the peaceful resolution of security challenges in Northern Nigeria.
“The President warns that the Federal Government’s consideration of dialogue as an option for the elimination of some current threats to security should not be seen as a weakening of its resolve and determination to use all the forces at its disposal to crush all brazen affronts to the powers and sovereignty of the Nigerian nation.
“President Jonathan extends sincere condolences to the families and colleagues of the soldiers, policemen and prison officials who lost their lives in the dastardly attack.
“The President urges the armed forces and police not to be disheartened or daunted by the loss of their colleagues, but to remain focused and undeterred in discharging their responsibility for the security of lives and property in all parts of Nigeria with the assurance that the Federal Government will continue to give the Armed Forces and Police the fullest possible support to enhance their ability to meet the continuing challenges of terrorism and insurgency.
“President Jonathan also commiserates with the families of the innocent civilians who were either killed or injured in Tuesday’s attack on Bama.”
The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) strongly condemned the attack on Bama by gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram insurgents.
In a statement in Lagos yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the ACN said while every human life is sacrosanct, it is particularly saddened by the mindless killing of security personnel in the course of carrying out their duties of ensuring the protection of lives and property.
It also described as barbaric and callous the killings of defenceless citizens, especially women and children, saying the perpetrators of the act have lost their sense of decency and humanity.
The statement reads: ‘’Nothing in the world can justify the kind of killings we have witnessed in recent times, and it is high time those who are behind these orgy of violence stopped and retraced their steps,’’ The ACN said, adding that the Bama killings, coming about three weeks after the Baga massacre, portray Nigeria as a country where human life has little or no value.
‘’This unflattering portrayal can only have negative consequences for our country, which needs all the goodwill of its global partners, all the foreign investments it can muster, as well as an environment conducive for urgent growth and development.”
It wondered what the insurgents wanted to achieve by attacking women and children in police barracks and targetting health centres, courts and local council secretariat, all areas most likely to be populated by innocent civilians.
The party urged the Federal Government to work closely with other key stakeholders to find a lasting solution to the Boko Haram crisis, saying that flip-flopping and foot-dragging must stop.
The army yesterday said that normalcy has been restored in Bama.